Drinking a caffeinated beverage before shopping may increase the number of purchases one makes, and how much they spend. The corresponding study was published in the Journal of Marketing.
Caffeine is the world's most popular stimulant and is consumed daily in the form of coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Consumers often shop online or in-store while, or immediately after, drinking such a beverage. In the current study, researchers sought to see how caffeine consumption affects consumer behavior.
For the study, the researchers set up an espresso station near the entrance of two different retail stores in France and a department store in Spain. Upon entry, half of 300 shoppers were handed a caffeinated cup of coffee and half a decaffeinated cup. Overall, they found that those in the caffeinated group tended to spend significantly more money and purchase a higher number of items than those who drank beverages without caffeine.
They also found that caffeine intake impacted the types of items bought in stores. Those who drank caffeine tended to buy more 'hedonic' items such as scented candles, fragrances, decor items, and massagers. They found, however, little difference between the caffeine and non-caffeinated group in the purchase of 'low hedonic' items such as notebooks, kitchen utensils, and storage baskets.
The researchers noted that the effects of caffeine on spending are most prominent among those who drink up to around two cups of coffee per day. The effects are less for those who drink more.
To explain the findings, the researchers noted other research that found consuming between 25mg and 200mg of caffeine tends to increase energetic arousal- or excitement- and has almost no effect on tense arousal- or nervousness. They noted that such energetic arousal enhances the perception of product features and, in turn, may increase purchase intentions for hedonic products.
"These findings are important for managers to understand how a seemingly unrelated behavior (i.e., caffeine consumption) in and/or around the store affects spending," wrote the researchers.
"From a consumer perspective, while moderate amounts of caffeine consumption have positive health benefits, there can be unintended negative financial consequences of caffeine intake on spending. Hence, consumers trying to control impulsive spending should avoid consuming caffeinated beverages before shopping," they concluded.